Friday 2 November 2012
SELINA THOMPSON PAT IT AND PRICK IT AND MARK IT WITH A ‘B’
by Lorraine Wood
You are invited to a party, a celebration with balloons and party poppers scattered across the floors of the space, paired with a musical score of tunes that ooze aspiration, inviting you in to help the artist craft her way toward a common cause. The mood is light, natural even, a sense of home and comfort resonate throughout the gallery walls, but the undertone of this durational piece of work is one that is affecting, subtle yet bold.
The artist remarks of her mother that ‘eating, for her, was like a prison’; it’s hard to believe that the act of keeping oneself alive can also leave you bound and tortured.
The impenetrable prison walls, made out of soft spongy delicate cake, cemented together precariously and playfully with fluffy pink icing create the foundations of a dress that will eventually be made and worn by Thompson. As each layer is imperfectly pressed together, the audience are invited to offer their hand, piece by piece, moving buoyantly around in the sweet mess created on the floor. There is a sense that this colourful creation is a platform for alleviating past troubles, brushing off the negative connotations depicted in her mother’s relationship to food, canonizing and celebrating the fun and excitement that one can have with food. Yet there is a sense of an underlying provocation that portrays the dangers of excess.
There are direct social implications, which run throughout tge piece, outlined in themes of control, judgement, imperfection and the act of letting go. In a society that permits immediacy to so many elements, the right here, right now, allows a cruel type of freedom that paves the way for a self-inflicted nightmare. The dress made of cake is fragile, the foundations shaky, yet the woman behind it, strong.
Throughout the process there are different levels in which her intention permeates, markings on the floor conversely reading ‘eating is cheating’ and ‘suck it up and someday you won’t have to suck it in’ convey that there is a balance to be struck and a deal with oneself to be negotiated. Walls are indeed built, but if history is a marker to go by, walls also come down, not just by hope, through collective engagement, as Thompson rightly points out that ‘nothing is achieved alone.’
Represented in a form that flirts with its audience, invites and tantalises their appetites in an overtly light-hearted manner, there is a subtle tension between the action and intention. Dealing with autobiographical subject matter may often tip the boundaries into giving away too much too soon; however this piece of work, played out over many hours, sees a woman starting out on a journey with a clear objective, which transforms her into an almost mythical being, exuding confidence wearing a dress made out of cake.